JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Leaving the air conditioner on isn't the magic solution for leaving pets in the car.
September 3 2016
People leaving dogs (and kids) in hot cars has been a heated topic this summer. For those traveling, making the car a comfortable place for pets is a necessity. I've seen lots of solutions, from leaving the air conditioner on to using aluminum shade blankets to deflect the sun. There are also thermometers that monitor a car's temperature from your phone. With all of the media attention on pets in cars, some people that keep the air conditioning on have resorted to posting a sign on their car so well meaning animal lovers don't automatically smash their windows open.
But keeping temperatures cool isn't foolproof. Earlier in the summer an Indiana kennel had 14 dogs die after their truck's air conditioning set-up malfunctioned. And last month, in a more unusual chain of events that were thankfully less tragic, a woman in West Virginia learned that keeping your vehicle on can be problematic. She left her two pups in the car with the engine and air conditioning running while she ran an errand. Meanwhile, the dogs managed to crash the car into a Walmart store. It happened at a slow rate of speed so no people or pups were hurt, and there was minimal damage to the car and building.
It's probably best to leave your pups at home while you're running errands or eating at a restaurant, but for those who don't have a choice, make sure you have a solid plan for keeping your pets cool. And if you leave the engine on, remember to put your car in park!
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Study finds that pets are beneficial to families with autistic kids.
August 31 2016
Animal assisted therapy has helped kids with a range of disabilities, but a new study has been looking at the effect of pet dogs on the whole family. A collaboration between researchers at the University of Lincoln and the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation has been looking at interactions between parents and children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). The study found that families with dogs experienced improved functioning among their ASD children and a reduction in the number of dysfunctional interactions between the parents and children.
The lead researcher, Professor Daniel Mills, says that while there's growing evidence that animal-assisted therapy can aid in the treatment of children with ASD, this is the first study to explore the effects of dog ownership. The team's work is also unique because the research looks at the effects on the family unit, as opposed to only looking at the ASD kids.
"We found a significant, positive relationship between parenting stress of the child's main caregiver and their attachment to the family dog," says Professor Mills. "This highlights the importance of the bond between the carer and their dog in the benefits they gain." The reduction in stress was not seen in families without a dog.
I can only imagine the anxiety and stress that parents of children with autism feel, but it's heartening to see the important role dogs play in our lives.
According to HABRI Executive Director Steven Feldman, "We have strong scientific evidence to show that pets can have positive effects on these quality-of-life issues. Families with an autistic child should consider pet ownership as a way to improve family harmony."
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Detection dogs who didn't make the grade are looking for new homes
August 28 2016
It has long been common practice for service dog organizations to adopt out the pups that didn't meet their high standards, but now the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is instituting a similar program to rehome explosives detection dogs.
The TSA is looking for forever homes for the pups who have either retired or didn't make it through their training program. The dogs typically range in age from two to 10 years old and are usually German Shorthaired Pointers, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, or Belgian Malinois.
These explosives detection pups will likely be well trained, but will come with unique challenges. As you can imagine, these working dogs need homes that can continue to provide an active lifestyle. In addition, unlike service dog school drop outs, explosives detection pups aren't used to a home environment because the TSA's dogs live in kennels. There is sure to be a considerable adjustment period, so I hope that the TSA plans on providing some support and guidance during the transition.
There's no adoption fee, but all prospective families must fill out an application and be approved. If applicants meet the requirements, photos and information on the available dogs will be sent and the Adoption Coordinator will help match families with the best pup for their home.
If you're interested in adopting an ex-TSA dog, contact the Adoption Coordinator at AdoptaTSAcanine@OLE.tsa.dhs.gov. This seems like a great program to ensure that these hard working pups live out their retirement days with a loving family.
News: Guest Posts
Pups as a Work Perk
August 23 2016
For dog lovers, being able to bring our pups to work is a huge perk. Most companies don't allow pets in the office, but that is slowly changing. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, seven percent of employers now allow pets to come to work—up from five percent five years ago.
Many companies see this as a way to help with retention and work-life balance at no extra cost. It's often people's favorite perk.
At North Carolina based Replacements Ltd, there are about 30 animals that join their 400 workers on a regular basis. Their policy is probably one of the most liberal—the office has even been visited by a duck, potbellied pig, and possum. Public Relations manager, Lisa Conklin, even hopes to bring in her horse, Azim, one day.
The pets have always been on their best behavior. Although on a number of occasions the human employees have broken the fine dining dishes that Replacements sells, no one can remember an animal ever being responsible for an incident before.
Bringing our pets to work is a fun perk, but it has tangible benefits as well.
In 2012, Virginia Commonwealth University professor Randolph Barker led research that measured levels of cortisol in workers' systems. His team found that people whose animals came to work saw a decrease in stress throughout the day, while those who didn't have a pet saw their cortisol increase. Randolph says that pet friendly companies typically report more coworker cooperation and interaction as well.
But there are some challenges with having a liberal pet policy. Not all animals like being in an office environment and it's up to the individual employee to make the best decision for their pet. There are also other considerations for organizations, such as allergies and finding a building that is pet friendly.
However, provided that a company can make it work logistically, the benefits seem immeasurable!
Dog's Life: Humane
Shelter volunteer treats dogs to an outing and a Starbucks snack.
August 20 2016
There are many "secret" items on Starbucks' menu, including one for dogs called the puppuccino. Now I don't drink coffee, but I have a friend who regularly takes her pup with her to Starbucks and orders a puppuccino along with her regular drink. The item is just a small cup filled with whipped cream, but dogs love it! In Washington, a few lucky shelter pups are being treated to puppuccinos while they wait for their forever homes.
Kitsap Humane Society volunteer Molly Clark had been taking rescue dogs on her local Starbucks visits for some time, but recently it has become an official program. As part of Puppuccino Pals, Molly takes one lucky pup each Tuesday to get a puppuccino. The local Starbucks pitches in by posting signs telling customers about the dog of the week to pique the interest of potential adopters. Molly also posts photos of the outings on the shelter's Instagram account.
"The dogs love the shelter breaks, and they adore the puppuccinos," says Kimberly Cizek Allen, events and outreach assistant coordinator at the Kitsap Humane Society. "You can see it in their little eyes as they lick the whipped cream out of the cup."
Not all dogs love an outing to Starbucks, so Molly will sometimes bring a puppuccino back and treat a pup to whipped cream and some time in the quiet room or play yard. This is such a fun collaboration between a shelter and their local Starbucks.
News: Guest Posts
A Maryland pup was saved after falling into a dry well.
August 18 2016
Earlier this month, a Saint Bernard in Perryman, Maryland found herself in an unlikely predicament—stuck at the bottom of a 30-foot dry well. Her family noticed Mabel was missing when they went to refill a play pool for her in the backyard. After looking everywhere, they decided to reconsider checking their well, which seemed unlikely because of the heavy lid. Too scared to look themselves, a neighbor ended up bringing a flashlight to peer in. To everyone's surprise, there was Mabel staring back up at them.
It's not exactly easy to rescue a dog from a 30 foot well, but fortunately Mabel had some incredible people on her side. First a hazmat team checked the air quality in the well before giving Daniel Lemmon, a firefighter with the Harford County Technical Rescue Team, the go ahead to rappel down. From there he gave Mabel a treat and harnessed her up. Mabel was then lifted her out using a pulley system.
As Daniel says, "It's a whole team effort. Sometimes we forget all those parts, but without them it just doesn’t work."
Although it was a complicated rescue, Mabel made it as easy as possible. According to Daniel, Mabel was on her best behavior. "She was so cooperative the whole time, no issues at all, didn’t snap at me, didn’t bark. If there’s someone who’s the star of this, it’s really the dog."
As soon as Mabel was lifted to safety, she immediately began jumping around, too excited to even drink water. Everyone was in disbelief that she survived the fall without any injuries.
No one knows how long Mabel was stuck in the well, or how she even got in there in the first place. Perhaps she was looking for a place to escape the 100 degree heat that day. Only Mabel will know for sure!
Dog's Life: Humane
Construction class learns to build dog and cat houses for a good cause.
August 13 2016
My memories from elementary school shop class are of making lots of fun, but ultimately useless paper holders and boxes. I'm sure my parents pretended to use them for a few months, and then they got relegated to a box in the attic. Florida shop teacher Barry Stewart had a much more practical idea in mind for his students. Barry wanted his class to learn construction skills while helping a good cause.
About ten years ago, Barry was inspired by a program called Houses for Hounds, which provides dog houses to lower-income residents with pets in North Carolina. As it turns out, building dog houses can be used to teach the basics of constructing a human home.
“The framing technique and terminology for pet housing is the same as for a regular house," explains Barry. "The floor system, wall system, roof system and all the actual parts are identical. So, every part we use on the pet houses we can reference to the correlating part in the home. I realized that it would be easy enough to work into what we were doing in the classroom. It was a good fit.”
Additionally, students are tasked with identifying and rolling out structural improvements as they work on their projects. One adjustment was creating an off-center entrance to shield dogs from being hit directly with wind and rain. They also work on feral cat houses with removable roofs that allow for easier cleaning and access to kittens that need medical attention.
Barry says that this project teaches students to think about the reason behind everything. "Even a really good idea can withstand some improvements,” he says.
Since Barry started teaching his students how to build, they've donated over 600 dog houses and 110 feral cat houses. Currently the pieces are donated to Friends of Jacksonville Animals. This is such a great way for kids to learn new skills while also developing compassion for others!
Dog's Life: Work of Dogs
Presenting to Pups
August 9 2016
Every semester, my Sheltie, Nemo, participates in a program where we go to one of the local colleges during finals week. The students always say how much they look forward to these visits, and how much comfort the pups provide during a stressful time of year. Bonnie Auslander, director of American University's Kogod Center for Business Communications, was inspired by how much students seemed to benefit from these programs that she decided to connect dogs with students trying to overcome speech anxiety. "As a dog lover, it occured to me what a wonderful thing it would be to practice with a dog," she said. "It's easier to practice with a nonjudgemental presence."
Last semester, the center booked about a dozen sessions using six pups recruited for their calm personalities. Students were sent photos of their canine match in advance and then met in person.
Masters student Zachary Fernebok was skeptical at first, but decided to try it out because he was familiar with the amazing work of therapy dogs. "My background before coming to business school was actually in therater," Zachary says. "So I had experience speaking in front of a lot of people, but never as myself." He found it extremely helpful to practice his final masters presentation in front of Ellie, a Bernese Mountain Dog.Jessica Lewinson, who recently practiced a presentation on corporate responsibility, said that the pups made her smile during her speech, but they also play a practical role as well. "It kind of gives you a chance to step back from your presentation, to step out of that track you get stuck in."
For those of us with dogs, I'm sure we've all used our pups as guinea pigs for everything from practicing speeches to testing a new cookie recipe. It's always great to see new ways the human-canine relationship manifests itself. In the words of Bonnie, "what is more human than loving an animal?"
A injured and disoriented teen is aided by a local pup.
August 6 2016
We've written about rescuing dogs that get injured on a hike, but what about when it's the other way around? 14-year old Juan Heriberto Treviño was attending summer camp in Mexico's Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range when he got separated from his group on a hike. Things quickly got worse when Juan fell down a ravine looking for wood to start a fire.
But thanks to a watchful pup, Juan wasn't alone. A Yellow Labrador Retriever, that Juan had encountered a few hours before, found him and stayed by his side through the cold night. Juan hugged the pup and took advantage of the extra body warmth. In the morning, Juan says the dog even led him to a puddle where he was able to drink some water.
When rescuers found the pair, 44 hours after they began their search, Juan and the pup were airlifted to safety. Juan was dehydrated and malnourished, but he quickly recovered at the hospital. Juan's family was so grateful for the dog's help that they requested to adopt the pup. But it turns out the Lab's name is Max and he already has a family in the area (it's not clear if Max was lost at the time or is allowed to wander for days at a time).
As an avid hiker, this story underscores the importance of being prepared when in the wilderness. However, I'm glad that Juan and Max found each other and that this story had a happy ending!
News: Guest Posts
This summer a Border Collie is attempting to move goats and sheep from crowded visitor areas.
August 3 2016
This year the National Parks Service has gotten a lot of attention as they're celebrating their Centennial. I'm planning a trip to Glacier National Park later this month and, besides the breathtaking landscapes, one of the highlights I hope to see is the mountain goats. Over two million people visited the 10th most popular national park last year causing the mountain goats and bighorn sheep to become unnaturally accustomed to humans, particularly around the Logan Pass visitors center.
Mark Biel, the park's natural resources program manager, says that the sheep and goats are highly attracted to salt and even lick sweaty backpacks that people leave near the trails. The herd animals also started using people as a shield against predators, since bears and wolves won't come near crowded places. In the past, park employees have used methods like arm waving, shouting, sirens, shaking cans of rocks, and moving vehicles to get goats and sheep out of the visitor center parking lot, but none have been effective in the long term.
So this summer the park has initiated a pilot program where Mark's Border Collie, Gracie, will herd sheep and goats off the pavement and condition them to stay a safe distance from crowded visitor areas. Gracie is the first employee-owned dog trained for work in a national park.
Starting in April, Gracie went to the Wind River Bear Institute, to learn basic banners, off-leash work, manners in crowds, and sheep herding. Allyson Cowan, the Wind River dog training program coordinator, says that Gracie was discouraged by the sheep at first, but now absolutely loves it. Allyson over prepared Gracie for her new job by putting her in more challenging situations than she'll ever be in at the park. For instance, using a round pen in training creates a confined environment that can be stressful for the sheep and the dog because there's nowhere to go. At the park, there will be open spaces where Gracie will have more room to push the sheep and have increased control.
When Gracie isn't herding, she'll be an interpretive learning tool for visitors, teaching them the importance of minimizing their impact on the environment and keeping a safe distance away from wildlife.
I hope to see Gracie during my visit later this month!
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